Standing at the start line of the Spartan Sprint in Mulberry Florida, I had a multitude of emotions. First, I was a bit nervous as it was my first Spartan Race in over a year. I had stopped doing them for a while after my bad experience at the South Carolina Beast. Secondly, I was freezing cold as it was 42 degrees outside. While this isn’t an emotion per se, it definitely made me eager to get the race started with so I could warm up. I don’t remember seeing weather this chilly in December in Florida for several years. Third, I was anxious. Going into this race, I really wanted a decent performance. I had been doing CrossFit for the last month and with all the speed training and weight training I had done both during and outside marathon training, I hoped to have a good performance for my return to OCR racing. Soon after we entered the start chute, we were sent off by the announcer.
The first obstacles came pretty quickly in the course: hay walls, overwalls (5′ walls), and the O-U-T (over, under, through) walls. I got through the first few pretty easily; the over wall for the OUT obstacle was about 6′ high but I used the wall walk technique (see video below) and was able to swing myself over without much effort. Next came the hurdles, then the half mile long barbed wire crawl just after the first mile. I already felt like my training was paying off as I was able to keep an average pace of 10:00/mile on the running portions, which was every time I wasn’t at an obstacle. After the barbed wire was the Bucket Brigade, which is where you take a plastic bucket and fill it to the holes (they drill holes in the bucket prior to the race) with rocks. For women it’s about half full and for men it’s all the way to the top. After filling it the weight is approximately 40 lbs for women and 75 lbs for men.
There was quite a lot of running after the Bucket Brigade and then we came to the Inverted Wall, which I navigated quite easily this time around. Compared to the South Carolina race where I had trouble with this obstacle, this felt pretty easy for me and I was proud of myself for completing it without assistance. Then we hit the monkey bars, which I again completed easily. My first failed obstacle came at the spear throw; every time I do a Spartan race I pretty much expect to fail this obstacle because I suck at aiming and throwing spears haha. So I wasn’t too surprised when it fell short of it’s intended target and I ran over to the “burpee zone” to do my 30 penalty burpees. I was pleasantly surprised when I managed to navigate the 7′ wall with little assistance, however. The final obstacle before mile 3 was the sandbag carry, which was similar to the Bucket Brigade, only with a 40lb sandbag instead of a bucket.
After mile 3 the obstacles began coming closer together. Olympus was the next thing we faced; it’s a slanted wall with hand holds like rock climbing holds, holes in the wall and chains attached at varying intervals. Racers have to make their way across without touching the ground. I got about three holds in and dropped. Over to the burpee zone I went. That was probably (in my opinion) the toughest obstacle they had on course. Right after Olympus was the Multi-Rig, which for Sprint racers simply had a line of hanging rings we had to cross. As I approached it, I gave myself a mini pep talk, “You can do this obstacle, Montana. You’re stronger than you’ve ever been. You’re not going to fall.” Off I went and I successfully swung from ring to ring without falling to complete the multi-rig for the first time ever! I’ve been doing Spartan races since 2015 and I had never completed that obstacle.
The next obstacle was honestly the one I’d been dreading the most, due solely to the fact that it was freezing cold outside and the water was sure to be freezing as well. It was the rolling mud/dunk wall, which is several muddy water pits built up for you to slide down into and climb back out of before dunking your entire body into muddy water underneath a wooden wall to come up on the other side. You usually get some fabulous ‘derpy’ race face photos while doing it though. After that obstacle I had to remove my headbands because the water was getting into my ears and making them sore.
Right after the dunk wall is the slip wall, a slanted muddy wall with a rope you have to climb up. A guy at the top stopped to offer me assistance, and it’s a good thing he did too because I would have slid back down if he hadn’t. But I made it up and over and continued on to the 6′ wall and Atlas lift. This has to be my least favorite obstacle on any race course ever. It’s basically a giant stone ball that you have to pick up, carry a few feet, drop and do 5 burpees, then pick it up again and carry it back. The women’s weigh about 80lbs and then men’s are closer to 120lbs. It’s super hard to get it off the ground because there are no hand holds and its usually muddy by the time you get to it.
Following that was the vertical cargo net, the rope climb and the Herc Hoist. I did all of these, but I won’t say with ease, because the ropes were muddy so gripping them was tough and the Herc Hoist is a 75lb bag of sand attached to a rope that you hoist into the air. You have to get it all the way to the top of the rig and then back to the ground without dropping it or it doesn’t count. I finished that with some difficulty then proceeded to the A frame cargo net and finally the fire jump at the end of the race.
My goals going into this Spartan race were simple: 1) Beat my previous time of 1:51:49 at the Miami Sprint race I’d done in 2015; 2) Complete all the obstacles with limited assistance and 3) Run as much of the course as possible (typically I stop to walk at some points). I completed all three of these, finishing in 1:39:33 (22 of 157 women in my age group and 110 of 818 women overall). I’m extremely happy with my results, especially for not having raced a competitive OCR in over a year. With my continued CrossFit training, I’m looking forward to having my best year in OCR yet in 2018!
** Edited to add that I’m super thrilled to announce I’ve been made a part of the 2018 Tough Mudder Ambassador team! Back for year 2! It’s going to be an epic one!**